Discovery of alien water frogs (gen. Pelophylax) in Umbria, with first report of P. shqipericus for Italy

Dario Domeneghetti, Giacomo Bruni, Mauro Fasola, Adriana Bellati


Allochthonous water frogs (gen. Pelophylax) have been repeatedly introduced in several European countries, causing dramatic consequences for the conservation of indigenous taxa. In Italy, invasive populations are known for northern regions, where they were introduced mainly for edible and scientific purposes. Here, we report the first detection of an alien population of water frogs in Central Italy, along the Resina valley (Umbria). Genetic analysis of the mitochondrial ND3 gene polymorphism assigned some specimens to two different Pelophylax ridibundus clades widespread in Central and Eastern Europe. By contrast, two samples matched the mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequence of Pelophylax lessonae bergeri, an autochthonous taxon widespread in Central Italy, suggesting possible hybridization between alien and indigenous frogs. Finally, the specific haplotype of Pelophylax shqipericus, the Albanian Pool Frog, was also identified according to mtDNA polymorphism. This record, firstly reported for Italy, poses concerns for the conservation of this cryptic taxon, suggesting that international water frog trade may involve also particularly endangered species.

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